The laborious agonies of creating beauty, captured in relaxed, anecdotal prose.



Investigative visits with some gung-ho rose-lovers, who reveal their methods, motivation and super-competitive ways.

Scott, a journalist and rose-grower in Portland, Maine, treks cross-country from her hometown to various sunny spots in California, stopping at the homes of numerous rose experts to find out why the flowers enthrall these cheerful, hardworking, deeply committed people. The rosarians (knowledgeable growers of roses) she meets are mostly male and mostly well-off—they need to be able to afford the space and paraphernalia necessary to keep the flowers flourishing. They’re also competitive by nature, and not just about roses: Rachel Hunter, of Temecula, Calif., once ranked third in a national typing contest. But the main focus of the rosarians’ obsessive competitiveness are the three national shows hosted annually by the American Rose Society (ARS); the chapter entitled “Judgment Hour” chronicles the results of the ARS Spring Show in San Diego. Only hybrid teas, Scott learns, can win the top awards of Queen, King, Princess and Best of Show, though thousands of varieties exist within 35 classes or categories of roses. The typical rosarian, she discovers, employs an armada of chemical weapons to keep the flowers in peak bloom and bugs and diseases at bay; the president of the World Federation of Rose Societies is actually a semi-retired forensic chemist and toxicology specialist. Chapters on “Rose Sex” (i.e., hybridizing) and the cultivation of antique rose varieties (“The Heady Scent of History”) are especially interesting. Along the way, Scott offers some fascinating bits of historical trivia: The Minoans of Crete first painted roses; the Romans were crazy about them; and French Empress Josephine so delighted in the flowers that she even managed to save many species from extinction at her estate at Malmaison.

The laborious agonies of creating beauty, captured in relaxed, anecdotal prose.

Pub Date: May 18, 2007

ISBN: 1-56512-464-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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